At 73, Richard Bennett is certainly not the average 18 to 25-year-old college student at Emporia State.
But Bennett isn’t avidly studying to be a doctor, teacher or scientist. In fact, he has been a dentist for nearly 50 years. Instead, he is simply taking creative writing classes for his own enjoyment.
“I look at these writing classes I have been taking as an anti-aging medication,” Bennett said.
Bennett’s life change dramatically 10 years ago when his wife’s breast cancer returned. She had originally been diagnosed with breast cancer at age 40. Three years ago, she passed away.
“She would not have wanted me to hibernate,” Bennett said.
And as his dental practice, which was a major “brain concentration for 53 years,” winded down, Bennett decided he needed something else to keep his brain functioning. So he enrolled in Amy Sage Webb’s Intro to Creative Writing class last spring and is currently enrolled in Webb’s Fiction Writing class. Webb is a professor of English and co-director of the creative writing program.
“I was a little apprehensive to sit in class with the bright young minds of today’s college students, but I took the plunge,” Bennett said.
But Bennett said that the way in which he fit in with the class was more than he could have imagined.
“I was able to learn so much from her (Webb) and (my) classmates,” Bennett said. “What I’ve enjoyed tremendously is seeing what’s in the minds of the young students I’m sitting with…we’re creating. It’s a good thing for people to be able to imagine and then put it down in words.”
Writing has always been a hobby that has interested him, and he said he thought that if he was going to write, he should learn a writing structure and how to do it right.
“Because hunting and fishing and wildlife have been a major part of my life, I wrote stories of hunting experiences, mostly about hilarious happenings while in a duck boat or deer stand,” Bennett said. “Then I wrote fictional stories for my grandchildren, you know, something that would put them instantly to sleep at night.”
Webb said that non-traditional students like Bennett make the school environment so much richer.
“I think we forget sometimes that learning is supposed to be fun,” Webb said. “We’re racking up credit hours, worried about grades, and Richard adds back that spark of excitement of learning for its own sake.”
Non-traditional students also help benefit traditional students because there needs to be more interaction generationally, and it gives them an additional perspective, Webb said.
“I think one of the major benefits that non-traditional students bring is that they’re bringing in a whole new set of experiences, (and are) able to bring that ‘real world’ experience back into the classroom,” said Jason Bosch, director of Student Life Learning and Assessment.
In his spare time, Bennett has also taken up rock sculpting. He even made Webb a red apple last semester carved out of marble rock, complete with an engraved brass plate with her name on it. He said these activities are good for his mind and act as a sort of therapy.
“Life can and should go on after the loss of a loved one,” Bennett said. “ESU is helping me do that…thank you, ESU.”